If I'm watching a documentary about real people, can I say "The main character of this documentary is a very determined person..."

Can I apply word "character" to real people, or it's only about made-up/fabulous characters from films/novels/fairy tales etc?

3 Answers 3


You would generally use character to reference either someone fictional or fictionalised, or to refer to a real personal's personality. In your example, I'd suggest using subject rather than character.

  • I like this as an answer to the question, what do you call the main character or a documentary, but you might want to expand it to cover all the other "characters" in a documentary.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:41

I agree with the other answer saying you should use main subject. You could probably also use protagonist in this context. However, character can refer to a real person, if you're describing them as some kind of eccentric/amusing person, often as someone you'd only find in a particular place, as in "The main subject of this documentary is a real New York character who feeds bagels to pigeons in Times Square."


I would suggest using, "Commentator" over actor.

  • The subject of a documentary might not ever make a comment.
    – Davo
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 12:44

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